Tag Archives: gender politics

You know.

Standard

My improv teacher hounded us the other day:

“You don’t ‘think.’ You know.”

She had asked a woman who was preparing to go onstage, “Who is this person to you?”

“I think he’s my fiance.  I think we just had an argument.”

But in improv, there is no script.  We are our own playwrights.  When we make a decision, that decision is truth (re: Respect one another’s realities).  We need to make statements and stop being so wishy-washy.  The audience is looking to take our cue, so we need to be bold and confident when we assess the situation.

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This reminds me of something I’ve realized about the way women articulate ourselves.  I scoured the psychological literature (and some of the sociological literature), but surprisingly and unfortunately, I can’t find anything about this.  However, I’m not the only one who’s noticed; the web has a few forums where people have discussed it:

Women often preface their thoughts with, “I think,” or “In my opinion.”  They end their statements with, “you know?” and litter “right?” throughout their speech.  If you’re saying it, we know it’s your opinion – you are not an encyclopedia.  If we are following you and not asking questions, then yes, we know what you mean.  You don’t need to seek reassurance throughout your speech.

It frustrates me, because it makes women seem unsure. Subordinate. Like they lack confidence.  And I get even more frustrated when I realize that I DO THIS.

When we throw these clauses at the beginning of our sentences, we look like this:

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“I think that I have an opinion, but I just want to let you know that it’s just my thought and I may be wrong, so actually, I’m not really comfortable saying that I have an opinion of any sort afterall.”

Why do we slam ourselves this way?  Perhaps it makes us  more sociable, more open to hearing others’ points of view and exchanging ideas.  Maybe we’re worried that if we didn’t preface our opinions in this way, people might perceive us as bitchy, or as cold (a double standard, for sure).  The worst part is that I think most of us do it without conscious awareness – it’s been drilled into us from a young age that it’s okay, and socially preferred, for us to regard our opinions and thoughts in this manner.

I need to think more like my friend’s mom:  she was featured in Forbes magazine as being one of the most successful female entrepreneurs.  She’s a very respectable person, a woman of power.  And she talks like one, too.

I haven’t started my own multi-million dollar business or anything, but I, too, can be a woman of power, if I talk like one.

(For instance, I just resisted the instinct to write “I think I can be a woman of power too.”)

I don’t think – I know.

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